harbour Maritime Weather Wellington

December 31, 2013 … right to the end of the year

My last post of the year.

Canada geese gathering
A high density geese jamboree

I shall probably continue next year too, though I may try to reduce the number of images per post and to increase the amount of “seeing” per picture. Anyway, yesterday started out surprisingly well, and I checked the usual haunts. Nothing but Canada geese though I swear the density is increasing daily. They must be having a jamboree.

Across the pauatahanui Inlet from Silverwood
The promontory on the far side is Motukaraka point where I usually look for kingfishers

On the way back home I noticed a side road I had not previously explored and found myself on a hilltop in a suburb called Silverwood which I had never previously known. This is a seemingly affluent and very new area, still growing within the boundaries of the Porirua City. Big houses, nice cars, and probably large mortgages. The view down over the Pauatahanui inlet is nice.

Voyager of the Seas
It’s a massive ship

In the afternoon, with the weather still holding I went into the city, and spotted the cruise liner, Voyager of the Seas at the Aotea Quay terminal. I parked at the ferry terminal and no sooner did I step from the car than the rain came down. Luckily I had the storm jacket for the camera, though nothing for myself. From the water level she is huge.

Voyager of the Seas
This little boat can push that great big one around

Driving round to Oriental Bay with windscreen wipers slapping, I passed a bunch of bedraggled tourists trudging back to their ship, having been caught out as I was by our fickle climate.  From Oriental Bay I looked back towards the big ship and spotted one of the new Damen ASD  tugs which had just assisted the Aratere into a tight berth. These astonishing vessels are little more than a platform that keeps the engines float so that the engines can supply 28 tonnes of thrust in any direction. This sturdy little water tractor just pushes the sea aside.

That’s all for this year. See you in 2014

Happy New Year.

Birds Maritime Paremata Reflections Weather

December 30, 2013 … so the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness dancing*

Stillness is a quality I value greatly.

When I look out of my window and see no movement in my neighbour’s tree, I become more alert. What is the light like? Where should I be to get the best images?

The fleet steaming in review order
The swans didn’t even wake up as the geese passed among them

Of course, my thoughts usually turn to water, and so I went to Pauatahanui to begin with. As I have said previously, Canada geese are around in huge numbers this year. As I arrived at Motukaraka Point, a whole fleet of them were steaming in disciplined formation though an anchored fleet of sleeping black swans. It was an impressive and stately manoeuvre.

Arriving home
This was the only thing moving

There is still a conspicuous lack of kingfishers at the inlet, so I went over to the Mana Marina at Paremata. Perfectly still conditions there were interesting, and as I was setting up for a long slow exposure, a pleasure craft came through my field of view. It was moving fairly slowly, but the 1/3 second exposure was sufficient to show its movement towards its berth. I quite like the effect, and it was a bit reminiscent of the geese passing between the swans.

Poet's corner
I can see this as inspiration for poetry

Next, the little sandy beach just inside the Pauatahanui Inlet gave a great viewing point for the colourful boatsheds on Ivey Bay, just adjacent to Paremata Road. I am not sure which one, but the New Zealand poet, Sam Hunt lived here with his much loved sheep dog, Minstrel for many years until he ran foul of bureaucrats who required him to move. I can see why he would like it there.

Peace, perfect peace
As I said, I love the calm conditions

From the same spot, but looking across the harbour to the North East, I was captivated by the utter stillness of the water.

A few ripples
The ripples came from a passing boat, and not from any wind.

Finally, from behind the boatsheds, looking North across the inlet, the boats moored within Ivey Bay didn’t move at all while I made my last image of the day.

That’s the day.

*T. S. Elliot,  from The Four Quartets:  East Coker

Cook Strait flowers Landscapes Light Maritime Weather Wellington

December 29, 2013 … there are more than fifty shades

Greyness has its compensations, whether in the hair or the sky.

These last but a day before being demolished by the wind

Our spell of un-summer continues, and the day was mostly grey. At least the wind has abated. My lovely granddaughter Maggie had her ninth birthday yesterday, and we popped round to visit her. She is saving madly to buy an iPad Mini … they are $450 locally … and she is almost there.  I found this poppy in her mother’s garden. As it tells you, there was still some drizzle about.

Kaitaki entering the harbour
That’s a serious looking sky

Calm water always appeals to me so I went around the Miramar peninsula and saw Kaitaki negotiating the entrance to the harbour against a dark and threatening sky. The upper and lower lights at Pencarrow are visible, and the Baring Head light can be seen on the headland above the rearmost lifeboat.

Lyall Bay
Despite the obvious lack of wind or waves, there were hopeful surfers in the water near the airport

In Lyall Bay, looking South East towards Baring Head in the distance, I used the ND filter to slow things down and quite like the effect.

Monochrome cloudscape
The Eastern sky was not all bad

To the North East, the cloud formations were very attractive and I zoomed out as far as possible and again used a slow exposure. This image is a rarity since monochrome is not my natural habitat, nor is it likely to become so.  I took it in colour and converted it to black and white using Lightroom.

That’s enough for now.

adversity Birds harbour Light Maritime Petone Seaview Weather

December 28, 2013 … fragments of a season

Last year we had a summer.

The tank farm, Gracefield
The mist-shrouded hill in the background is the Wainuiomata Hill

This year, we seem to have a jig-saw puzzle … fragments of weather that, if fitted together properly, might give some hints of what summer could be like. Yesterday had none of the missing pieces. It was simply damp all day. My photo-a-day commitment, however, makes no allowance for this so I went out as usual. First stop was near the oil terminal at Seaview.

Mid-summer weather
In normal circumstances the tank farm in the first picture would be visible from here, as would the Wainuiomata hill behind it

At the other end of the Petone Esplanade, there is a very rough road beside the rowing club shed adjacent to the railway line. From there, there was a view back towards the Petone wharf, and the absence of the hills beyond is a testament to the kind of day that it was.

I am often accused of having my head in the clouds

Coming back up Normandale Road, about 300 metres from home, I looked up to the mist swirling through the pine trees on my neighbour’s front yard, and thought it was worth a shot.

Tui on flax
It was still drizzling, but the bird seemed happy

Finally, as the day closed its curtains, a tui had a late visit to the rain-soaked flax flowers.

Maybe other bits of the puzzle will emerge tomorrow.

Landscapes Light Maritime Wellington

December 27, 2013 … the lifebelt shot

Do it now!

Fresh from some light-hearted banter with a friend on Facebook, I think of all the things people put off until later, not knowing how much “later” will be available to them. I am on shaky ground here, because I do it with my photography, every day. The chance to make images shrinks with each passing hour, until the closing of the day forces me into a corner.  Yesterday was a very pleasant day, and the afternoon was taken up with a trip to the movies with youngest son Anthony, elder daughter Catherine and son-in-law Mark. We went to see the latest episode in the Hobbit, and since this is not a movie review blog, I shall hold my peace.

Gracefield from Normandale
This was the “just in case” shot


Knowing that my window of opportunity was closing, and knowing I might not get out again that day, I sneakily grabbed a long shot of the Hutt Valley from our front door before joining Mary Mark and Catherine for dinner.

Delivery pipes
As well as petroleum products, these lines deliver all kinds of weird chemicals from the tankers at Seaview to the nearby tank farm

After dinner, the last of the unpredicted sunshine was heading rapidly towards the Western horizon, and the youngsters had gone home. Mary released me from domestic duties so I headed out. My first instinct was to prolong the opportunity by seeking higher ground. Happily, I chose to stay at sea level and went out to Eastbourne. On the way, I thought I saw something worth recording in the light gleaming on the delivery pipelines from the Seaview terminal to the tank farms that appear in the first image above.

Day's end over Seatoun
I am a sucker for the layered look

From the bus barns, the view across to the hills at Seatoun and beyond was pleasing to my eye, with soft colours and layered hills.  The second row back is Hataitai  and behind that I think we are seeing the ridge near the wind turbine at Brooklyn.

Kaitaki going to Picton
The sky colour caught my eye

To the South, there was a golden haze into which the Interisland ferry Kaitaki was disappearing  after turning to stay clear of Barrett’s Reef.

I really must do my photos earlier. Perhaps I’ll start tomorrow.

Birds Family Food Pauatahanui

December 26, 2013 … recovering from too much of a good thing

Our family celebration on Christmas Day was great.

Helen's mini-pavlovas
With cream chocolate and cherries … delicious

Those of us who were in, or who made it to, Wellington gathered at the home of our younger daughter Helen and our son-in-law, Vasely. There were fourteen of us present, and it was a very relaxed and happy gathering with superb cooking, gracious hospitality, a lot of laughing and excellent company.

The wind was not really all that strong, but the yacht was moving along quite briskly

Later in the day, still suffering a little from my lack of restraint at the table, I went to Pauatahanui Inlet and just sat by the water’s edge in the late afternoon sun. Not much was happening from a bird point of view. Two people were out on the water enjoying their yacht.

The Caspian tern put up with it for a while but soon moved on

Another two were kayaking though they were far too close to the bird roosting areas for my liking.  The Caspian tern in this image put up with the antics of this fellow who managed to run aground on the sand bank and had to “knuckle-walk” himself and his craft into deeper water.

Protective escort
It seemed a very deliberate protection strategy

I am not sure why, but the Canada geese are present in larger numbers this year than I have seen before. It’s fascinating to watch the convoy escort system applied to ensuring that the youngsters are protected from external threats.

Time to look to the scales and the pedometer again.

Birds harbour Maritime Wellington

December 25, 2013 … time out from the feast

Christmas is almost over here.

It’s 11 pm and I haven’t written the blog for yesterday’s images. As I am sure you will understand, Christmas is a family day and there has been little time for other things.

Shag confrontation
“I just vant to dreenk your blood”

My photographic day began at Hikoikoi reserve with a rather comical confrontation between two different types of shag. The pied shag with its wings spread appears to be telling the little black shag that he is a vampire shag and should be very afraid.  Or perhaps not. The little black seemed unimpressed.

Little black shag
On the surface for four or five seconds between each dive

The little black shag in the next image was making frequent dives but I never caught it with any fish.

As the Arahura goes to Picton, the black-backed gulls (Larus dominicanus) wheel about near their colony on Matiu/Somes

Looking around, I saw the ferry Arahura disappearing into a bank of soft drizzle out to the South.

Spoonbills and Swans
The spoonbills seem unperturbed by the family squabble occurring behind them

I had to scramble a bit since we were going as a family to the Christmas vigil Mass … the service at which the children re-enact the Christmas story in a pageant, and at which there is a carol service. Coming back to get changed for this I risked being late to grab some shots of a pair of Royal spoonbills grazing among a flock of black swans.

My last shot of the day is of the black swans alone. Collectively they seem to make an efficient job of harvesting the lurid green weed.

Black swans
It seems a very uniform approach

The day is over. I mean no disrespect to those of other faiths when I express the wishes appropriate to one of my faith, that the day is kind to you, and that  the year ahead will be the best yet.

That’s it. I need my bed.

Birds Normandale Pauatahanui

December 24, 2013 … wild goose grasses

In my younger days I alway loved the music that was described as “folk”.

Perhaps it was the gentleness of the genre, but I was a sucker for it, even if the cynical lens of hindsight now tells me it was like white bread, highly refined and bore only a loose resemblance to the products of the ancient crafts.  Heck, I still enjoy it, so that may explain why my first shot from yesterday brought the Weavers to mind. The Weavers were a folk group dating all the way back to 1948, and their most famous member was Pete Seeger.

wild geese in the grass
I love these grasses

But the song that triggered all this nostalgia was a gentle ballad called “Wild Goose Grasses” or “In Tarry Town”. If you would like to hear it, click here. When first I got to these grasses, there was just grass. But then it seemed to sprout a  crop of wild geese all honking their alarm to wake their slumbering relatives and warn them of the intruder.

This must have been the grand council of water fowl of the inlet

Beside the grass there was a narrow creek and as I crept over to it, an amazing variety of waterfowl began a hasty withdrawal. It was a little like the Dunkirk evacuation fleet … vessels of all shapes and sizes withdrawing from enemy territory.

House sparrow
More exotic visitors were hoped for

At home, I set my camera on a tripod with the wireless remote trigger, scattered birdseed in my focus zone and waited. Nothing but sparrows.

I hope you’ve all been good and are on Santa’s list.

adversity Birds Cook Strait South Coast Wainuiomata

December 23, 2013 … accessible wilderness

The banded dotterel (Charadrius bicinctus) is a threatened bird in New Zealand.

Dotterel habitat
This image is 100% free of dotterels

Foolishly, from an evolutionary perspective, it makes shallow scrapings to nest on open beaches. Naturally dogs, horses, quad bikes and even people can trample all through the nesting area and destroy the eggs.  On the South coast beach at the end of the Wainuiomata Coast Road, there is a fenced off area designed to deter intrusion by humans. Sadly the fabric used to mark the boundaries rots in the sun and wind, and worse, mindless morons drive quad bikes through the area despite signs imploring that the nesting area be respected. I went to see if any dotterels could be seen from the edge of the fenced off area. Alas, I saw not one. Either they are not there, or else they are better camouflaged than I thought.

Ferries coming and going
Kaitaki and Aratere passing “port to port” as dictated by the customs of the sea

Away to the West, I could see two ferries, the Kaitaki on the left, heading to Picton, and the poor crippled (one of its propellers fell off) Aratere inbound to Wellington. Though the temperature was not high, the waves coming in from the South seemed to create a haze that distorted the view in an interesting way.

Solitary walker
If you have something to think about, this is probably a good place to do it

In the distance a woman was enjoying her own company as she walked the beach. I greeted her politely as we passed but, in the words of Lewis Carroll, “answer came there none”.  She walked on towards the West and I thought her presence added something to the beach shot with the South Island looming in the distance.

Tui and flax
The pairing of tui and flax is a bit of a cliché at this time of year, but it seemed a particularly handsome bird.

A brief comfort stop in the Rimutaka Forest Park allowed me to catch this tui on a flax bush. Look at that nectar feeding tongue protruding.

Ferries in the harbour
Just b eyond the Straitsman, the new apartment block modelled on the old Overseas Passenger Terminal is nearing completion

Coming back over the Wainuiomata Hill into the Hutt Valley I paused to see what if anything, was happening, and saw the Aratere being headed off by the Straitsman which had come from behind to berth first. According to the time stamp, this image was taken 25 minutes after the first one in which the Aratere features. It is not doing too badly for a vessel with one of its two engines shut down.

That’s all for today.

flowers harbour Weather

December 22, 2013 … a breath of fresh air

It has been known for there to be wind in Wellington.

Silver fern
This tree certainly gets animated in the wind and the unwary can catch a hefty blow to the head if walking beside it in these conditions

Nowhere near as much as in the imagination of outsiders, but nevertheless, it can occasionally get windy here. Yesterday was such a day. Applying the principle of making lemonade when given lemons, I decided to make wind images. Mostly this was achieved by using very slow shutter speeds so that each picture shows things moving under the force of the wind.

This particular bush is new to us … it wasn’t visible over the fence last year, so I am unsure how firmly it is holding on to the steep bank down to the road.

It wasn’t really all that strong yesterday, though gusts up to 64 km/h were recorded. It was certainly sufficient to stir the vegetation. My first two shots were made without leaving home. The ponga, or silver fern (Cyathea dealbata) at the front door was waving its fronds about like a demented traffic officer. Similarly, the self-sown pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) on the other side of the fence next to the road appeared to want to leave us. Happily, it is decided to stay.

Decorative grasses
Unidentified grasses waving in the breeze

In the public park at the bottom of our road, there are some decorative grasses that I have often thought might be interesting to photograph in motion. This is not the shot I imagined, but it certainly suggests to me that the idea is worth trying again.

Mahina Bay looking South
The long exposure seems to flatten the water but even so you can see that conditions get more lively nearer the harbour entrance

I went down to the harbour, and despite the stiffness of the breeze, the water at Petone beach was flat calm. Perhaps it was being beaten flat, or perhaps it as in the lee of the buildings on the foreshore. On the other hand, looking across the water towards Eastbourne, there were white caps and some quite rough water. From Mahina Bay, I tried a slow exposure with the neutral density filter, and once more came up against that limit where the very long shutter opening produced lens flares. I have attempted to remove the most obvious of them, and hope you get the impression  of the wind beating the water down, and driving the waves to the South.

That’s all for today. I have to go to the airport and do my best Bob Cratchit imitation as my elder daughter Catherine and her husband Mark fly in for Christmas. Of course, with five children, each with their own extended family, getting everyone in one place for Christmas is less likely than in days gone by. I am glad that three of them will be here this year, and we shall celebrate at the home of younger daughter Helen and her husband Vasely.

Two more sleeps.